Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stereotypes, Stealth and Plasticine

Stereotypes are incredibly confining. There is a tendency to define a group by ascribing them characteristics they don't all necessarily have and to see everyone and everything in terms of how different they are to others. Categorizing in terms of separation and difference leads to exclusion and reasons to hate or dislike. These things are as prevalent in the LGBT community as anywhere else. It should be a colorful rainbow of diversity but sometimes some of the colors seem to shine more prominently than others. In reality there is a beautiful continuum of difference and attitude running through all of us: There doesn't have to be an artificial boundary where LGBT ends and STRAIGHT begins.

In Kindergarten and Elementary schools over here they have a kind of modeling clay called Plasticine. It's oil based. I only have to smell it and I'm back in my days as a teacher. It comes in many pretty rainbow colors. At the start of the year the colors are all separate and the kids make strikingly colored little figures who stand out as glaringly different; a bright orange dog, a blue girl, a pink man. As the year progresses the colors blend, no longer separate but still identifiable; the pink man has a trace of blue and yellow. By the years end, the clay is one homogenous green-grey color....Thinking about it now, I know that I'd hate to to be one of those homogenized individuals but I'd also hate to stand out painfully & sharply from from all the the bright pink guy.

I'm Trans. I've spent much of my life in denial and trying to blend in. Now I'm getting to that point where I can see the possibility of completing my transition and moving on. Being lucky enough to pass most of the time, it crosses my mind that it would be nice for once to just melt into the background and get on with my life as a woman. Yet I know that in a way I AM the bright blue girl, sticking out like anything. If I'm out in the Gay Village in the heart of the City I'm happy to be exactly that color; part of one bright rippling rainbow. In institutions like a School or College where everyone pretends so hard to be dull grey-green, there's a problem. Sticking out, you're a role model AND a target. Dare not to blend absolutely perfectly and you're STILL a target.

The students I help in College all have disabilities or differences of some kind. In spite of our best efforts they sometimes become targets too. It is wholly undeserved. Sometimes the differences are obvious and there's nowhere to hide, sometimes they are hidden and it is possible to pass as 'normal' (whatever that is). For those who can hide, they find safety as long as they can keep their secret. Tough for those who can't. You can end up feeling a little guilty about being able to hide when others are being picked on.

Homogeneity is safety and comfort but it can become a sort of a prison. We want to define ourselves as individuals yet still have a place to belong. Is it possible to be out and Trans and have both? Does going Stealth mean you lose some of your individuality? I'm not sure I know. I once thought then when I completed my transition I'd melt away into the background and be just another woman, plain Jane, now I'm not so sure.


Jane x


  1. Statement, definition, the Crito of a new world and territories where we all have been and where we yet to know. Onward ever, backward never. Lead with your words and we will follow.

  2. Well, living in Wales probably makes it harder, anywhere else and I doubt that you would have any problem melting into the crowd...